Sentient Board Game Review (Renegade Game Studios)

8

Sentient is one of those games that can be nearly impossible for me to get other people to play. A mathematics-fueled strategy game with strong aesthetics, Sentient looks a good deal more complex than it is, prompting many players to quit before they begin. Like many strategy games, Sentient is simple in terms of rules, and more complex in terms of strategy (though not by a lot). Due to its multiplied scoring, players can get dramatically different scores as they improve at the game -- though not anywhere nearly as significant a jump as a game like Bunny Kingdom. Sentient should be given a chance even by those who hate math, as it really isn't a mathematics game. Like Shipwreck Arcana, it's a logic and strategy game that involves numbers. 

(Though, I guess mathematics is a logic game that involves numbers.)

Game Details

Players: 2 to 4

Game Time: 45 Minutes

Age: 12+

Genre: Strategy

How is Sentient Played?

In Sentient, you have a board with five dice on it. These dice are only rolled once, at the start of the round. Your goal is to acquire cards that fit between your dice. If you have a 2 and a 3,  you could fit a card that reads "x < x" on it, because 2 is less than 3. But to make this a little more complex, the cards change the numbers as well. The "x < x" card might add to the left side and subtract from the right side. When you put the card down, your numbers become 3 and 2. It's no longer true, and therefore you won't get the victory points from that card.

In addition to the victory points on the cards themselves, you get victory points by competing for "badges." Badges multiply by the type of card you have: if you have 3 service industry cards and 3 service industry badges at the end of the game, you get an additional 9 points. Players can simply select cards as they go, but they compete for badges, by placing additional influence as they select cards. Because this influence has to be played when selecting cards, there's a balance to the strategy: you want to collect as many badges as you can, but you want to avoid giving up the cards that are easier for you to achieve.

How Does Sentient Look?

With its bright pink box and pastel colors, Sentient has a bit of a vaporwave aesthetic, which I think may throw some players off. It's a shame, because it's an absolutely beautiful game, with one caveat: they let their style get a little too ahead of them in terms of readability. Two of the dice can be hard for players to distinguish from each other: they're purple and magenta, so if you have any type of color blindness, they may look almost identical. Regardless, sentient is an attractive game, unless you find their color scheme too garish. 

What's in the Box?
60 cards * 20 dice * 16 agent pawns * 20 assistant pawns * 15 investor tokens * 9 player board sections * 8 turn order markers * 1 turn order board * 81 chips

How Does Sentient Feel?

There are three issues players could have with Sentient, though only one of them is something I feel is actually an issue with the game.

  1. Mathematics scares players off. Many players become paralyzed when they're trying to figure out their strategy, and their brains simply shut down when they encounter numbers entirely. But this is the conceit of the game, and it works for some even if it doesn't work for others.
  2. The theme really doesn't tie into the game. In fact, just playing the game it's hard to say what the theme really is. There are companies and they are building influence in a specific sector. The theme of Sentience doesn't actually factor in anywhere in the game itself. It feels like the game should be about developing sentience through these algorithms, but you're actually playing a company.
  3. There's very little interaction with other players. It is a non-directly competitive game; some players like this, while others don't. 

Sentient is a fast game. There are only three rounds, after which the game is scored. For a simple game, there are a number of strategies that can be used. Some players focus primarily on their board, others on collecting badges, and others on being disruptive. That being said, it isn't an overly deep game, despite its appearance; it's really a casual to mid-level strategy game that happens to include numbers.

Sentient Board Game Review
  • PRO: A fast, attractive game that can be played by both experienced and inexperienced players.
  • CON: Futuristic theme paired with math can scare off some gamers.